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Dark-Browed Martha

When the frost-king clothed the forests
In a flood of gorgeous dyes,
Death called little dark-browed Martha
To her mansion in the skies.
'Twas a calm October Sabbath
When the bell with solemn sound
Knelled her to her quiet slumbers
Low down in the darksome ground.

Far away, where sun and summer
Reign in glory all the year,
Was the land she left behind her,
To her simple heart so dear.
There a mother and a brother,
Meeting oft at close of day,
Spoke in tender, tearful whispers
Of the loved one far away.

'I am thinking,' said the mother,
'How much Martha'll get to know,
And how smart and bright 'twill make her,
Travellin' round the country so.
'Spect she'll be a mighty lady,
Shinin' jewels in her ears;
But I hope she won't forget us,--
Dat is what dis poor heart fears.'

''Deed she won't,' then spoke the brother,
'Martha'll love us just as well
As before she parted from us,--
Trust me, mammy, I can tell.'
Then he passed a hand in silence
O'er his damp and swarthy brow,
Brushed a tear from off the eyelid,--
'O that she were with us now!'

'Pshaw! don't cry, Lem,' said the mother,
'There's no need of that at all;
Massa said he'd bring her to us
When the nuts began to fall.
The pecans will soon be rattling
From the tall plantation trees,
She'll be here to help us pick them,
Brisk and merry as you please.'

Thus they talked, while she they waited
From the earth had passed away;
Walked no more in pleasant places,
Saw no more the light of day;
Knew no more of toilsome labor,
Spiteful threats or angry blows;
For the Heavenly One had called her
Early from a life of woes.

Folded we the tiny fingers
On the cold, unmoving breast;
Robed her in a decent garment,
For her long and dreamless rest;
And when o'er the tranquil Sabbath
Evening's rays began to fall,
Followed her with heavy footsteps
To the home that waits us all.

As we paused beside the churchyard,
Where the tall green maples rise,
Strangers came and viewed the sleeper,
With sad wonder in their eyes;
While my thoughts flew to that mother,
And that brother far away:
How they'd weep and wail, if conscious
This was Martha's burial day!

When the coffin had been lowered
Carefully into the ground,
And the heavy sods fell on it
With a cold and hollow sound,
Thought I, as we hastened homewards,
By the day's expiring light,
Martha never slept so sweetly
As she'll sleep this Sabbath night.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:17 min read

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper born to free parents in Baltimore Maryland was an African American abolitionist and poet more…

All Frances Ellen Watkins Harper poems | Frances Ellen Watkins Harper Books

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